in books, musings, reading

holiday traditions

My family (much to my mother’s annoyance) somehow avoided creating any real/lasting family traditions associated with the holidays. The one thing we stood firm on, as a family, was the Thanksgiving Dinner menu, and the one thing I’ve done each year since I was eight was read (or, now, re-read) the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Luckily, with all of the traveling I’ve done over various holidays, it’s a fairly light-weight tradition and comes in handy on long plane flights or waits for trains.
I realize that this may not be a traditional holiday-type tradition, mainly because it is both solitary and anti-social (at least until you start talking about the books with others), but something about re-reading books (and these books in particular) has always helped me de-stress and renew my outlook on life.
I am not going to argue that they are great literature–although they are wonderful and important stories. But the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are prime examples of novels that take you somewhere else. I enjoy reading all sorts of books, but when I want and need a rest, fiction that takes me somewhere recognizably not my home helps me the most. Chick-lit agitates me (I usually get all grumbly and aggravated with the characters/or spend all of my time guessing which Jane Austen they are imitating now) and non-fiction (however interesting I find it when I am in the mood to read it) often, by its very subject, depresses me: Tolkien, and others like him, create worlds real enough to fall into but dissimilar from the world that currently contains all of the stresses of life.
When I leave the world of middle-earth, I feel better able to deal with the real world surrounding me. I haven’t (necessarily) learned any great lessons or thought deep philosophical thoughts, but I have relaxed and thought of something else: sometimes exactly the break my mind and body needs.